What is CBM-CFS3?

CBM-CFS3 is a carbon accounting model for forest ecosystems.  It calculates carbon stocks and stock changes over time.   The model can take a variety of inputs such as species, yield curves and disturbance types (forest fire, logging, etc.) and output multiple simulations for comparison.  The multiple output functionality allows for an easy comparison of baseline versus differing management strategies to see the relative impacts on carbon, therefore allowing forest managers avenues to maximize carbon sequestration.  The current publicly available version of CBM-CFS3 is aspatial, but Canadian Forest Service in-house versions can be spatialised with a unique polygon ID.

What’s in the name CBM-CFS3

CBM = Carbon Budget Model
CFS = Canadian Forest Sector
3 = this is not the version number, rather a different model.  CBM-CFS2 was more at the landscape-scale, whereas CBM-CFS3 is at the operational-scale.


CBM-CFS3 is currently at version 1.2 (Beta)

Model Provider

Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada

Primary contact: Werner Kurz



Download the model

The model can be downloaded for free through the NFIS (National Forest Information System)


Best Reference Document – if you will be using CBM-CFS3, read this document: CBM-CFS3: a model of carbon-dynamics in forestry and land-use change implementing IPCC standards. 2009. Kurz, W.A.; Dymond, C.C.; White, T.M.; Stinson, G.; Shaw, C.H.; Rampley, G.J.; Smyth, C.E.; Simpson, B.N.; Neilson, E.T.; Trofymow, J.A.; Metsaranta, J.M.; Apps, M.J. Ecological Modelling 220(4): 480-504.

Required Inputs – these are read in as TXT, XLS or MDB files:

Age Classes – information identifying age classes and age class size

Disturbance Types – identifies disturbance and management activities (fire, clearcut, insects, etc.)

Classifiers and Values – describes forest type, such as leading species, site quality, crown closure, etc.

Inventory – this is the stand specific data, which points to the ‘Classifiers and Values’ classifiers and includes data such as stand age, area (ha), and disturbance history

Yields – contains projected merchantable volume (m3/ha) per stand type

Transition Rules – defines the transition per stand type after a disturbance (for example, after logging a stand of Douglas fir, it is replanted with Lodgepole pine).

Disturbance Events – defines disturbances to occur per stand type


CBM-CFS3 outputs both graphic and tabular data. As of version 1.2, there are no spatial capabilities, but that should change with the next release (the model will be spatialised by carrying a unique per stand polygon ID though from input to output).

Difficulties or Problems for SGRC to implement model as a web tool:

  1. Interactive – CBM-CFS3 as it exists now requires a large amount of interaction, even after the input files have been loaded.  This includes: mapping classifiers from input files to model classifiers, forcing a simulation to run, managing results to be able to view simulation results.
  2. Complicated – with a 445 page User Guide and almost 250 pages of tutorials, it takes a little while to get up to speed on this model.
  3. Input files – while input files can apparently be in text, MS Excel or MS Access formats, CBM-CFS3 can crash easily if formatting isn’t exact.


The Canadian Forest Service provides 3-day training seminars from time to time.  Recommendation is to go through the tutorials provided with the model download (put aside a few days for this – they are time consuming).

Syed Moazzam Nizami
Syed Moazzam Nizami

I want to attend the training on The Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3) in coming month. Anyone who can guide me how & where to apply?

Justin Robinson
Justin Robinson

@Syed Moazzam Nizami Hi Syed, you can contact cbm-help@nrcan.gc.ca to get put on the notifications list for the next training event hosted by the creators of the model. They do 3-day training seminars once or twice a year. 



I would like to know if this software could be useful for carbon storage in other type of ecosystems (moors) rather than forest?. 

Thank you,



@Karla No, the CBM-CFS3 is a forest ecosystem carbon model only. The model can represent nonforest lands and each can be assigned a soil type with modifiable, default initial soil carbon values, but only for the purpose of immediate conversion to forest via afforestation. Reliability in carbon stocks and stock change results for nonforest lands decline rapidly if the user does not convert them immediately to forest in a simulation, as the model will assume there are no biomass carbon inputs to the soil (which may or may not reflect reality). For more information, contact Stephen.Kull@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.